Tag Archives: lake health

Muskoka’s Lakes: The Calcium Story

Dr. Watmough explains  implications of calcium losses on lake ecosystems.
Dr. Watmough explains implications of calcium losses on lake ecosystems.

As mentioned last month in this cottageinmuskoka blog entry and this news story from the Huntsville Forester (Cottage Country Now), the decline of calcium in our lakes can affect our lakes recovery from acid rain as well as zooplankton in our lakes, which are are very sensitive to declining calcium levels.

From the Muskoka Watershed Council Lecture Series I have just finished editing and have just posted this video on the Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube page.

This is interesting information of value not only for those who own a cottage in Muskoka, but all of us who live in or visit Muskoka. In the presentation Dr. Shaun Watmough of Trent University helps us understand:

Why should we care about calcium in the environment?

How are calcium levels in lakes, vegetation and soils changing?

What is causing these changes?

What will be the impact of timber harvesting on lake calcium levels?

What are the critical uncertainties?

Declining calcium slows the recovery of acidic lakes.
Declining calcium slows the recovery of acidic lakes.



Reminder: The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience is this Saturday!

Even if you aren’t paddling in the event, it’s an … ahem… Great Experience to watch.
This Saturday, at Annie Williams Park in Bracebridge, come out and see why The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience has become an epic one in Ontario paddling and beyond.


The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience generously supports the work of the Muskoka Watershed Council. Past cottageinmuskoka.ca post, and here are some additional links to published articles on the event:

– Muskoka Watershed Council media release: story
– Town of Bracebridge media release: story
– What’s Up Muskoka : story
– Muskoka Magazine: story  (scroll down a page).
– Bracebridge Weekender: story

Timber harvesting and the health of our lakes: The Calcium Story


Mentioned in a number of Muskoka Watershed Council lectures over the past few years, calcium decline in Muskoka Lakes and in particular, the consequences of timber harvesting on lake calcium levels have been hinted at as a potential direct cause of declining health of our lakes in Muskoka. Here’s a past primer news story from the Huntsville Forester (Cottage Country News).
This week, we have an opportunity to discover more.

Dr. Shaun Watmough, an Associate Professor in the Environmental Resource Science Program at Trent University in Peterborough will present.
Here is a synopsis of the lecture:
Decades of acid deposition have depleted soil calcium reserves and, when combined with timber harvesting, predicted losses of calcium from soil are considerable and may ultimately threaten long-term forest health and productivity and lead to negative impacts on lakes.
In this talk, Dr. Watmough will provide an overview of our current understanding of calcium biogeochemistry and describe the reasons for the widespread decline in calcium levels in lakes and the implications of calcium losses on soil fertility and forest health in addition to impacts on lake ecosystems.
With an emphasis on south central Ontario, Dr. Watmough will document a nutrient budget for a selection harvesting regime in central Ontario hardwood forests. This work is then extrapolated to regional harvesting activities and management issues are discussed.

The lecture is this Thursday, October 10, 2013 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at Nipissing University – Muskoka Campus, 125 Wellington Street, Bracebridge, P1L 1E2. As always, admission is by donation

The link for this lecture and registration is here.

The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience

I’ve just finished post-processing and editing this video for the Great Muskoka Paddling Experience. This event, held annually on the Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend is a great opportunity for anyone – even if you don’t have a canoe or kayak, you can rent one there – to get out on the water for perhaps the last time of the year. It was a fun video to shoot and create and I hope it captures just how much fun the event can be.

The Great Muskoka Paddling Event benefits the Muskoka Watershed Council and helps give them a bit more of a budget to do important work. It’s a really well organized event and fun for all ages, and all levels of paddling experience.

Why don’t you try it this year?


Muskoka and Global: Environmental Good News Stories.

Did you know that Gravenhurst Bay in Lake Muskoka is 4 to 5 times cleaner than it was 1970?
Did you know that everyone alive in the 70’s had toxic levels of lead in their blood?
Did you know that Muskoka has only half as many acid lakes as it once did?
Well, how about this then: if it wasn’t for the life in lakes, we would all be blind, deaf , stupid and dead.

Dr. Norman Yan
To be blunt; we would all be blind, deaf , stupid and dead if it wasn’t for the life in lakes.

From the Muskoka Watershed Council Lecture Series I have just finished editing and have just posted this video on the Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube page.
Dr. Norman Yan, an extremely engaging speaker, revisits some past environmental successes, what we have learned and the steps we need to take to solve today’s environmental problems.

Phosphorous is the conrolling factor in eutrophication.

Learn how the reduction of phosphorus resulted in a clean up in Gravenhurst Bay while the International Joint Commission was still debating whether its carbon or phosphorus that spikes algal growth? This local Muskoka cleanup helped convince the world that phosphorus is the cause of cultural eutrophication. This phenomena is of increasing concern as population grows and the climate heats up; after all, we learned from this lecture, that algae really love heat.

Current photo of lake in China where people swim in an algal bloom.
Current photo of lake in China where people swim in an algal bloom.

Revisit the change to unleaded gas which got the toxic levels of lead out of our blood. Dr. Yan also discusses the many benefits of the ban on DDT, as well as the immediate benefits of the recent Ontario ban of cosmetic pesticides and herbicides. Also be sure not to miss houses disappearing from view as the Sudbury environment improves over 40 years!

Muskoka. Our environment is far more than our economy.

From the Muskoka Watershed Council Lecture Series I have just finished editing and have just posted this video on the Muskoka Watershed Council’s YouTube page.

All of us should be familiar with the fact that in Muskoka, our environment is our economy; over half our GDP comes from tourism and cottaging. In this lecture, Peter Sale attempts to convince us that our environment is far more than our economy.

Every year some 5 billion cubic metres of water pass through Muskoka – that’s 3 1/2 times the entire volume of Lake Muskoka. Half is evaporated or transpired by Muskoka’s forests and plants, the other half – some 2.5 billion cubic metres flows into Georgian Bay. As climate change affects Muskoka – producing warmer and wetter winters, but dryer summers with more intense storms – we may be trying to find ways to hold on to that water, just a little longer; maybe the beaver has a solution for us.

wetlands 5

Peter, who describes himself as a strange, but harmless ecologist, talks about some of the many creatures in Muskoka including the beaver, the expected effects for Muskoka from climate change, an idea or two on solutions, and that there are other ways of valuing our environment other than simply to value it as a storehouse of resources to dig up and take away.

Algae and Water Quality. Looking back to see the future

As mentioned in previous posts, cottage owners and cottage buyers want to know about water quality on lakes in Muskoka. Because water quality has a direct relationship to property value, and algae – particularly algal blooms – directly affect water quality, we all want to know as much as we can .

I just completed and uploaded a video here for the Muskoka Watershed Council YouTube page. The subject is a talk that was presented by Dr. Andrew Paterson of the Dorset Environmental Centre at the Muskoka Stewardship Conference at Nipissing University in Muskoka (Bracebridge). The event’s theme was What Are You Watching?


This highly interesting talk looks at studying lake sediments deposited over hundreds – and even thousands of years. Sediments are archives of environmental change and within them are clues to possible triggers of algae outbreaks.

Dr. Paterson talks about sediment research done in Lake of the Woods in north-western Ontario and the Hudson Bay Lowlands which may help scientist understand occurrences in the lakes of Muskoka. There is discussion on the relationship between water quality and property value for cottagers. The seeming paradox of stable or even declining phosphorous levels – the usual algal bloom suspect- at the same time as blue-green outbreaks are increasing. And of course, the effect of climate change.

Algal Bloom Three Mile Lake 2005

Of particular note is the 2005 toxic algal bloom in Three Mile Lake in 2005, where research may indicate the possible triggers of record high temperatures coupled with record low precipitation which occurred in the fall of 2005 in Muskoka.

Slide 1

There is significant evidence that a warming climate is related to the increase in algal blooms. Dr. Paterson suggests that if algae was the music that we hear from a radio: then phosphorous is the volume; other nutrients (particularly nitrogen), light, etc., influence what species are present – are the “tuning”; and climate is the antenna. The presentation concludes that blue-green algae likes it hot!

Slide 1

Click here for the link to the video on YouTube.

What do you really want to know? Muskoka Watershed Council wants to hear from you.

In cottage real estate we get asked a lot of questions: Is it weedy?; Eeeew! What’s that stuff?; Why don’t we see crayfish anymore?; My boathouse dock’s underwater – what’s with the water levels this year?; Is my water safe for swimming?; etc. It’s really a lot of fun to answer most of the time!
But here’s a chance to have some of what you want to know, perhaps monitored over time and have it reported on every 4 years!

As many readers of this weblog know, the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) is a volunteer based non-profit organization with the mandate to champion watershed health in Muskoka; I am one of those volunteers.

MWC produces a Report Card every four years. The Report Card is a science-based evaluation of the health of the water, land, and wetlands in Muskoka and the municipalities that share Muskoka’s watersheds. Three Watershed Report Cards have been released to date (2004, 2007 & 2010)  We are also assisting the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve with the development of a State of the Bay Report for Georgian Bay, which will be released this year.

For the next Watershed Report Card due to be released in 2014, we want to hear from you, what you want to know about the health of our watersheds.
Click on the page below to ask your questions or find out more.


Muskoka Moments starts with a winner!

I posted a few videos today. One is the 1st of a Muskoka Moments collection.

The idea of Muskoka Moments is to show people and places in Muskoka, but more importantly, to try to show the connection between the two.

Our first video Backyard Swamp, Bracebridge, is a perfect example to lead off. The star of the video, shows off his knowledge of the natural world around him and his excellent backyard! The video was created by a newbie to Final Cut Pro -nice work!

If anyone has a 1 or 2 minute video (or aspires to shoot some) that shows the connection between people and our beautiful environment here in Muskoka, let me know.

We can even do the editing for you!

Our Lakes: How they have changed over the last 25 years.

I recorded this lecture by Dr. Michelle Palmer in July. One of the Muskoka Watershed Council lecture series.

Our Lakes: How they have changed over the last 25 years.

Dr. Michelle Palmer discusses how recent climatic warming, changes in acidic deposition, and human-related activities such as road salting and the accidental spread of invasive species have altered the water quality of our lakes in Muskoka, with a focus on changes in lake temperatures and water chemistry since the 1980s.

At the end there is an extensive Question & Answer session.

Calcium decline may hold answers to lake changes.